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Planning the infrastructure transition to net-zero
A plan to transition infrastructure to net-zero must form part of the upcoming National Infrastructure Strategy argues ICE Policy Manager, Alex Hardy who examines what a net-zero infrastructure plan should consider.
Achieving the net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050 will require an unprecedented transformation of the UK’s infrastructure systems. While 2050 may seem distant, in many cases the infrastructure currently under development will take years to deliver and will be operational well beyond 2050. So to achieve net-zero, action must be taken now.
ICE’s July 2020 State of the Nation 2020: Infrastructure and the 2050 Net-Zero Target shed light on the policy challenges for putting infrastructure on a net-zero footing. The report’s central recommendation was for government to deliver an integrated plan for transitioning the UK’s economic infrastructure networks to net-zero.
At present, there is a policy gap between the UK’s legally binding goal for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and government action to achieve this. This is well documented by the Committee on Climate Change. While the UK has an ambitious target, it does not have a comprehensive plan for how it will be achieved – especially in relation to infrastructure.
To address this, ICE has published a policy paper that examines what a plan for transitioning infrastructure to net-zero should consider. It explores the key policy choices that need to be made. These choices focus on action required in four areas:
- The future energy mix, including the role of the hydrogen, nuclear, bioenergy and other emerging energy technologies.
- Pathways to de-carbonising transport, including the electrification of transport networks and shifting to cleaner transport modes.
- Pathways for decarbonising heat, including the retrofit of buildings for hydrogen, electrification, energy efficiency and insulation.
- Reducing emissions from harder to abate sectors, including the deployment of carbon capture and storage and negative emissions technologies.
The need for coherent and joined-up policy to be in place for each of these areas is not new and is something that has been well explored by experts in the infrastructure sector and those allied to it. But in many cases, government is yet to articulate a strategic direction – inhibiting action by industry to get on and deliver net-zero.
To provide long-term policy stability and credibility, government should organise its thinking into a single net-zero infrastructure plan when the National Infrastructure Strategy is published in Autumn 2020. This is especially important as infrastructure investment is likely to play a major role in the economic recovery from Covid-19.
This article originally appeared on The Infrastructure Blog from ICE under the title, "The need for a plan to transition infrastructure to net-zero". It was written by Alex Hardy, ICE Policy Manager, and published on 2 September 2020.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- A systems approach to net-zero.
- Covid 19 and the new normal for infrastructure systems.
- ICE articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- ICE President Rachel Skinner presents Shaping Zero.
- Infrastructure carbon reduction misses net-zero target.
- Net zero carbon 2050.
- New deal for infrastructure 2020.
- Shaping Zero seeks carbon champions.
- Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail.
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